Constipation affects around fifteen percent of Americans annually. It is characterized by two or fewer bowel movements per week and/or repeated difficulty passing stools. As with any digestive ailment, dietary choices can have an enormous effect.

The importance of fiber

Fiber is the nutritional element in food that helps the human digestive system break the food down in a useful manner. Water is attracted to fiber, and eating high-fiber food items draws higher amounts of water into the stool, softening it and easing its passage. Fiber can be found in a large selection of foods: legumes (peas, beans), whole grains, green vegetables, dark fruits, and more.

The effects of processed foods

Treating Constipation the Natural WayHighly processed foods have become a staple of the American diet, beginning in the mid-twentieth century and snowballing to the point we’re at now. With 2/3 of American children growing up without a stay-at-home caregiver, is it any wonder? Hard working parents turn to instant foods to survive. Microwaves, and foods processed specifically for microwaves, have become essential.

The problem with over-processing is that it removes most natural fibers, and adds salt and sugars for long-term preservation. So you end up sacrificing nutrition for shelf life, and sacrificing your intestinal comfort for instant food.

An excellent example of this is any grain. Whole, unprocessed grains are full of natural fiber – but when they’ve been processed with sugars, salt, and preservatives, to make bread that has a long shelf life, whatever is left of those whole grains possesses little if any fiber at all. If you’re suffering from constipation, processed foods should be drastically reduced if not limited altogether.

Problems with animal-based proteins

Dairy items such as milk, yogurt, and eggs have long been known to cause constipation in many children. Cheese, however, is a common cause of constipation among adults, as well. Unlike processed foods, dairy items do not requre complete eradication – instead, reduction and consistent moderation can help avoid constipation.

Meat and eggs are less obvious causes of constipation; in this case, they are more likely to be consumed instead of a high fiber alternative. Meat and eggs are very filling, and when either or both of these dominate an individual’s diet, little room is left for significant fiber intake.

Even produce can have a detrimental effect

Treating Constipation the Natural WayWe often paint produce – fruits and vegetables – with a broad brush, thinking of all them as generally healthy. While overwhelmingly, produce is in fact healthy, there are dramatic nutritional differences and purposes among all fruits and vegetables. For example, bananas are known to cause constipation, while greens like spinach and kale actually help alleviate constipation. Chocolate covered  banana chips have even greater potential to cause constipation, because chocolate is known to cause constipation as well.

To instead use produce to your advantage in treating constipation, focus on leafy greens and certain fruits, including plums, prunes, berries, and more. Any fruit that is served dried – apricots and raisins, for example – likely has a lot of fiber.


Constipation is an extremely uncomfortable affliction that can be debilitating in its ability to make daily life extremely difficult. The good news is, in most cases, dietary modification can solve the problem.

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